Jonny Wilkinson kicked a dropped goal with 26 seconds remaining in extra time as England edged defending champion Australia 20-17 in Saturday's wet World Cup final and became the first European winner of rugby's ultimate prize.
The 24-year-old flyhalf had missed three attempted dropped goals, but his shot from about 30m ensured the title after the Wallabies had twice rallied to level the score and the decider appeared set to go into sudden-death extra time.
"It's something we've worked at for four or five years," said Wilkinson."We've put ourselves under pressure, and we feel like we deserve this.''
Wilkinson landed a place kick from 46m two minutes into extra time and Flatley equalized at 17-all in the 19th minute of extra time for his second high-pressure goal.
Flatley had earlier landed a shot from 15 meters inside the touchline in the last minute of regulation to lock the scores at 14-all and force extra time.
Wilkinson was hoisted into the air by No. 8 Lawrence Dallaglio and English and Australian players dropped to the ground in exhaustion after 100 minutes of rugby on Sydney's rain-soaked Olympic stadium.
Towering England lock Martin Johnson, playing a record 18th consecutive World Cup match including 11 as captain, held the Webb Ellis Cup above his head in a triumphant pose as tens of thousands of English fans in the Cup record 82,957 roared with delight.
It was England's first success in a football World Cup of any kind since the 1966 soccer World Cup and it avenged a 12-6 loss to Australia in the 1991 rugby final.
"This is the most incredible thing I've ever seen. I am speechless. Fantastic, unbelievable," said England coach Clive Woodward. ``My emotions? I was going nuts. We kept putting ourselves in trouble, making error after error.
* 2003: England def. Australia 20-17 at Sydney, Australia
* 1999: Australia def. France 35-12 at Cardiff, Wales
* 1995: South Africa def. New Zealand 15-12 at Johannesburg, South Africa
* 1991: Australia def. England 12-6 at Twickenham, England
* 1987: New Zealand def. France 29-9 at Auckland, New Zealand
"But who cares what I say? We have won the World Cup. I can't wait to go home on Monday. We kept going on about the drop-goal routine but it takes 15 players. The whole team was brilliant."
Johnson paid tribute to everyone in the English camp.
"It was a huge effort from the entire squad, the backroom staff, the coaches and the physios, and thanks to the fans who have been brilliant," Johnson said.
"I can't say enough about the team. We had the lead then lost it, then came back and Wilko at the end -- I just can't say enough.
"We were frustrated in the second half, but credit to Australia, they are a very good team and made it difficult for us. With 20 minutes of extra time it could go either way.
"But with Wilko there at the end, you wouldn't have anyone else there, would you?"
England prop Jason Leonard, who was on the losing side 12 years ago, went on for Phil Vickery in extra time to extend his international record to 113 test caps, two more than Frenchman Philippe Sella.
England had been ranked No. 1 ahead of the tournament and had lost just five games in four years since bowing out of the last World Cup in a quarterfinal loss to South Africa.
It was the second time a World Cup final had been decided with a dropped goal in extra time.
Joel Stransky kicked a dramatic extra-time dropped goal to give South Africa a 15-12 victory over New Zealand in 1995.
Wilkinson landed three long-range penalties in the first half and Jason Robinson crossed in the left corner in the 38th to counter Lote Tuqiri's try for the Wallabies as England took a 14-5 lead into half time.